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Latest Update - 4/22/22

Dear Loved Ones,

 

Today is the 73rd day of this war in Ukraine. Praise God, He continues to keep us safe!

 

Thank you to each of you who continue to pray for us day after day! We know these prayers, now more than ever, are a vital part of our ministry to the dear people of Ukraine. Day after day we feel covered by your prayers. We see how they advance before us, preparing hearts and lives for our interactions with them, as well as bring comfort to those we tell about your prayers. Time after time we hear gratitude from our Ukrainian friends, after they hear that you all are praying for them. Your remembrance and continued prayers mean so much to them. Thank you!

 

We were blessed by a wonderful Easter celebration with our church back in Kyiv! It was SO good to be back with our people and fellowship with them. We spent four full days in Kyiv and Irpen visiting with people who we hadn’t seen since this war started. And while we rejoiced in God’s mercy in sparing our home, we also had many opportunities to put into practice the second half of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”  Sadly, there are so many hurting people now in and from Ukraine. As we talk and listen to their stories, we often feel as one of our friends put so well in her broken English, "I have cried so much over the last weeks that I think I have no more water left... but then I just cry again!"

 

It is one thing to see news reports and pictures of the destruction in our town of Irpen and the surrounding towns and villages, but to see this destruction first hand is mind numbing. While driving through Irpen, we came across the home of one of our friend’s. Their fence in front of their house was pockmarked and riddled with shrapnel holes… and then we looked up. The entire front upstairs bedroom and the roof above this room was blown away. There was a gaping hole where the wall and roof used to be! As we stopped to take a few pictures, thinking no one was home, Andrei came out and greeted us. We were so glad to hear from him that they were all right. They too had fled during the first week of the war. But sadly, their home had taken a direct hit. After being shown around the house, it was clear that when the shell hit their house, the blast had picked up the entire roof, shifted it slightly and then settled back down. The entire house will probably need to be rebuilt due to the massive cracks in every wall of their home. Me and another friend, Lyosha, spent all day Saturday helping them clear the debris and rubble from their home and seeing what they could salvage. Loriann and Isabella spent the day cleaning our refrigerator from the two month-old food that had been left when we fled. I think the girls had the more unpleasant job!

 

Then the day after Easter we took Sasha and Lena, two refugees that are now living in our church in Kyiv, back out to their home in Ghorenka, about five miles from Irpen. They had left their home in the third week of the war. They didn’t know what condition their house would be in, and were not very hopeful about what they would find. When they fled their home a month before, the houses on either side had been struck by shelling. Sadly, as we brought them to their house, they too found their home completely destroyed. They told us that they had only recently finished remodeling the inside. Now it is a pile of burned bricks and twisted metal. Sasha looked though some of the “rooms,” but there was literally nothing they could salvage. Their street was just destroyed house after destroyed house. While we were with them, their neighbor, a 96 year old grandmother came walking across her yard. This grandmother had survived WW1, the great famine, WW2, as well as 70 years of Communism, and now, here she was, also picking through her destroyed home and trying to tend to her tulip garden in the midst of all this destruction. And of course, the first question that comes to mind as we were standing in the middle of all this is, “why!?” Why did this have to happen? What did this sweet couple do against Russia? What did this 96 year old grandmother do that was so threatening to the great country of Russia!? As we drove through Sasha and Lena's town, (Ghorenka has the highest concentration of destruction according to size in all of the Kyiv region) and as we drove through Irpen, we began to see that so much of the destruction was not because of battles that took place. Much of the destruction was out of spite and hatred for the Ukrainian people. Houses and apartment buildings were shelled not because there were Ukrainian soldiers in them, but because they were nice houses and apartments and the invading army could not stand that people could live so nicely. There is a parking lot near the cemetery in Irpen where hundreds of civilian cars were collected and piled up after the Russian army was driven out of Irpen. So many of these cars were shot up, burned and destroyed by tanks, not because they were any threat to the invading army, but because they were nice, new(er) cars that were evidence of nice, happy lives left behind by those who had fled. So much of the destruction left behind by the Russian army has a feeling of hatred and deep, vengeful resentment. So people who are now coming back to these Ukrainian liberated towns and villages are dealing with the fact that not only have their homes been destroyed, but they’ve been destroyed for no logical reason. Those days in Ipren and surrounding towns were just more evidence of how evil this war is. I have not found any other way to describe the destruction and horrors that this war has brought on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, except pure evil. May God give grace as we comfort and counsel those to whom this evil has visited. Sadly, we are finding more and more times when God is calling us to “weep with those who weep.” 

 

The week after Easter we traveled west, through Rovno where we stayed with two sweet families, preached in a village church and spent time comforting and encouraging dear friends. We then moved into Volinsk region where we stayed with Andrei and Vika. These are dear friends from Irpen who fled to Vika’s parents house in Lutsk when the war started. We spent three precious days playing with their kids, grilling meat, and eating yummy food prepared by Andrei. In each of these homes and with each of these families we were able to leave financial gifts to help meet basic needs. Most of these friends have been unemployed since this war started. Thank you to those who give! Your support is going directly to the needs of Ukrainians all across Ukraine. Each one is very touched and extremely grateful!

 

This past Saturday we left Western Ukraine and drove into Poland. I had been invited to preach at a Polish church in Lublin on Sunday and also to take part in a Polish-Ukrainian conference on Tuesday. Just as we found in Romania, the Poles have also opened up their hearts and their homes to the millions of Ukrainians who have fled across the border these past two months. Over 5.8 million Ukrainians have fled this war and over 3.1 million have fled into Poland. We spent four days with a wonderful church community in Lublin. This church has been active in not only receiving refugees at the beginning of the war, but also gathering humanitarian aid for delivery back into Ukraine. Pastor Pavel and his church also have a vision to evangelize Poles and Ukrainians during this unprecedented time. One way they are doing this is through their YouTube channel which broadcasts an hour long news program where they examine current events through the lenses of scripture. This is having a powerful effect on the social elite in Poland… and beyond. Loriann and I were even interviewed one of the days we were there for their afternoon broadcast. If you are interested, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDTzfN13fc4 And here is the link to my message in their church service this past Sunday: https://youtu.be/ZtpdWGqVFHU?t=3004

 

We are now in Czech Republic! On Wednesday we drove to the little town of Vsetin, Czech and surprised our dear friend Natasha, for her birthday. She was shocked… and very happy. This is the same Natasha that we asked prayer for during those first days of the war. Natasha, along with sisters Olya and Liliana, were living in a bomb shelter in Kyiv for almost a week before they were able to flee to southern Ukraine and then into Czech Republic. They are now living in a small community center in a village just outside of Vsetin and Natasha and Liliana are working at a sock factory, while Olya is working and living about a half hour away at another refugee center as a translator. They have settled into their new life here in Czech, but long for the day when they can return to Kyiv, their families and the church. Pray for our girls as they learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, new food and their new life. They were so happy to see us. Olya wouldn’t stop hugging Loriann and saying, “I don’t understand why you guys are still here!? Why aren’t you back in America with your families!? I just don’t understand!” Praise God that we can be a beacon of hope and encouragement to those we visit! No, not everyone understands why we are still here, but more and more we see that these past twelve years were just a preparation for this war and this time right now. This is why God called us to Ukraine. Again and again we see that this is His purpose for us at this time.

 

And this is why we are so grateful for each of you and your support for us and our relief efforts for Ukraine. Your support has enabled us to visit and encourage so many families these past weeks. We have been able to bless each family with a financial gift. We’ve also been able to help others who we can’t reach right now. We were able to get help to one of our families in Italy who has not yet received any assistance from the local government. We also were able to help another large family in western Ukraine with a financial gift. In Lublin we also met a young man, Dima, who serves with a youth ministry in Ukraine. He was in Poland gathering humanitarian aid to take back to the frontline towns in some of the hottest spots in eastern Ukraine. He takes supplies and humanitarian aid into these areas and evacuates people on the way out. He has been separated from his wife and kids for over two months now, (they are now in America.) We were able to give him a financial blessing as he headed back into Ukraine with his van. Please pray for the gas situation in Ukraine. Due to the Russian military targeting oil depots and refineries all across Ukraine, there is a serious gas shortage. One of Dima’s biggest concerns was finding diesel fuel for his van on his drive back across Ukraine.

 

We are thankful for the past few days as we’ve been able to spend time with our dear friends Raymond and Breann and their kids here in southern Czech Republic. It’s been great reconnecting with them and hearing how God is using them to minister to Ukrainian refugees way over here. We are grateful for the rest we’ve found in their home. We praise God for each oasis He gives us on our way. Tomorrow we are heading into Germany to visit five or six displaced families from Kyiv and our church. Please pray for God’s protection and for our car to continue to run well. We are so thankful for our car!!! This machine has been used mightily by God to bless hundreds of people these past two and a half months.

 

Friends, thank you for your giving. Thank you for your generous support and trusting us to be your channel of aid and relief to so many Ukrainians. Last month we were able to purchase a generator for our church in Kyiv through the generous giving of Tom and Marty Parker and their friends in Clarksville, Tennessee. I served with Tom and Marty way back in the early 2000s in Moscow, Russia. When they heard about our need for a generator, they did not hesitate to gather the funds. We are so thankful! May God bless you all for each and every gift that enables us to bless and ministry to so many here. Believe us, these gifts open doors and speak to hearts and give us further avenues to share God’s love and truth to the many around us. So again, for the many Ukrainians you have helped and reached, we say thank you! May God bless you more than you could ever ask or imagine.

 

Please continue to pray for peace and victory in Ukraine. But more importantly, please pray that many Ukrainians would find the real peace, and true victory that can only be found in Jesus Christ. “I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6

 

With hearts full of gratefulness for His protection and care!

Joel & Loriann Matchak